Saturday, March 24, 2012

Long Way Down: McGregor’s & Boorman's Motorcycle Diaries

By Bob Thompson 

The Motorcycle Diaries: Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman take the Long Way RoundIn between acting gigs, Ewan McGregor likes to take “mind-expanding” trips. He does that with well-documented motorcycle journeys: The first one was in 2004, another occurred in 2007, with a third in the planning stages. The biker breaks — each commemorated with books and TV shows — allow him to return to his craft with a vitality he demands of himself. Certainly, the 40-year-old’s latest movie agenda underscores the effect of those rejuvenating jags.
The Los Angeles-based McGregor has headlined or co-starred in 14 films since his last motorcycle sojourn, and he’s in the process of shooting a new movie in London.

“I’m playing a knight in Bryan Singer’s version of Jack and the Beanstalk,” he says of the live-action, 3-D adventure called Jack the Giant KillerTypically, McGregor manages to move from blockbusters to low-budget independent features, but even he agrees he’s picked up the pace over the past four years.
“When I came back from that last motorcycle trip, I wanted to re-establish myself,” McGregor says. “So I have been flat-out working a lot, but I like it that way.”
And he enjoys mixing it up. He had a main role in Tom Hanks’ star vehicle Angels & Demons. He co-starred with George Clooney in anti-war satire The Men Who Stare at Goats and he played opposite Jim Carrey in the bizarre romantic comedy I Love You Phillip Morris. He was also featured in the Roman Polanski mystery The Ghost Writer, and he had fun with Emma Thompson in her family fantasy Nanny McPhee Returns.
Another McGregor change of pace arrives with the melodrama Beginners, opening June 17.
Written and directed by Mike Mills, the semi-autobiographical movie tells the story of Oliver (McGregor), a frustrated artist trying to cope with two relationships in flux. One is with a girlfriend (Melanie Laurent), who has commitment issues. The other has him adjusting to the fact that his father (Christopher Plummer) has announced he’s gay and terminally ill.
“We shot the movie like two films,” McGregor says. “We did the father-and-son story first, and we shot the love story, but that was more about [Mike Mills’] friends.”
The father-son portion of the narrative is a great deal more personal for the writer-director, who did, indeed, reassess his relationship with his gay father after he came out just before he died.
“Mike was writing about his own experience, but he was also writing about people in our generation, and all the issues we have with love,” McGregor explains.
There’s no question that the most poignant part of the film is the father-son dynamic, emphasized by the easygoing rapport between McGregor and Plummer, the award-winning Canadian actor.
“We had huge chemistry together,” McGregor says. “He’s a completely contemporary actor, who was so good at what he did, I never saw him doing it.”
To prepare, Mills preferred that the two actors bond by hanging out together, rather than rehearsing the dialogue.
“Mike sent me and Plummer off to Barney’s one day,” he says, referring to the chic Beverly Hills department store. “He gave me $200 and told me I had to buy Christopher a scarf.”

Ewan McGregor on his busy schedule: “When I came back from that last motorcycle trip, I wanted to re-establish myself, so I have been flat-out working a lot, but I like it that way.”

After an unscheduled detour at the store to buy Plummer and his character “eight pairs of black skinny jeans,” they did indeed purchase a scarf, “as a sort of an afterthought.” More importantly, the shopping spree turned out to be the first step toward the actors becoming friends, as well as colleagues, which translates onscreen. “Mike certainly knew what he was doing.”
While McGregor’s film career has had its ups and downs, he seems to have a clear focus, too.
The Scottish lad dabbled in British TV roles before scoring the lead in the 1995 film Shallow Grave, then earning great reviews as a heroin addict in the international hit Trainspotting.
A few years of low-profile or lacklustre movies changed with his role as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1999’s prequel Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, followed by 2002’s Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith.
Other notable moments arrived in 2001, with his performance in Baz Luhrmann’s postmodern musical Moulin Rouge! and Ridley Scott’s combat picture Black Hawk Down.
In 2003, he co-starred in Tim Burton’s stylized fable Big Fish, and shared screen time with Scarlett Johansson in Michael Bay’s 2005 sci-fi action hit The Island.
Through it all, he says, he continues to rely on just one thing to make his movie choices: “I go on my gut instincts. Occasionally, the thought of working for a director pricks up my ears, or being alongside an actor gets me interested. But if the story can’t live in my head when I read the script, I feel I can’t be bothered to live with it on set.”

In For The Long Haul

The Motorcycle Diaries: Ewan McGregor and Charlie Booman take the Long Way Round 

By Kevin Ash
The two most famous pupils of the BMW Off Road Skills Course are Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, who last year rode from London to New York on a pair of R1150GS Adventure BMWs and filmed their trip for the TV series Long Way Round.

I asked Boorman about the value of the training in some of the toughest conditions any off-road rider is likely to find: "Ewan learned a lot as he'd never ridden off-road before, picking up all the basic techniques. I've been riding since I was about seven - on a farm in Ireland, doing some motocross, enduro and so on, although not proper competition - so I found it a bit easier.
But what the course did for me was validate what I was already doing and help me understand it. It gave me a lot of confidence on the 1150 too - sometimes this was a bit easier than the 650 in fact, and it was surprisingly nimble.
"We covered all sorts, like what to do if the bike was dropped in water - unscrew the spark plugs, let the starter pump the water out, and don't worry about getting it all out - but Ewan was the first to drop his bike on a river crossing. Getting the bike out was the hardest part; getting it running again was easy.
"The techniques for picking the bike up were very useful, but every single bit of information they taught us, we used a thousand times over on the trip. I'd say do this whatever bike you're travelling on. Simon and Nick have such a good attitude: it's about having a laugh, not being self-conscious about falling off. They teach you so much. I'd like to go back again, just to see how much better I am after the trip!"

(^) LOVE TO RIDE; RIDE TO LOVE - {{{::::::::::::>>>


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